A touch of European flavour in a vanilla segment
SANTA MONICA, CA – Carmakers will go to great lengths to ensure that their product launches go off with considerable fanfare, but seriously Ford; having a space shuttle zoom overhead during the recent Fusion drive was taking it a bit far.
Or perhaps it was just a coincidence. Either way, enough already. Colour us impressed.
And not just by the impromptu air show. In a segment traditionally populated by the capable, reliable and quite frankly, just a little bit dull, Ford has managed to introduce a midsize sedan that's not only great looking, but engaging to drive as well.
The 2013 Ford Fusion is up against some tough competition from long-time segment leaders Camry, Altima and Accord -- and recently, the overwhelming success of the Koreans, Hyundai and Kia. However, with a new European-developed, adaptable, global platform and increased production capabilities from new plants in Mexico and Flat Rock, Michigan, Ford is well poised to take one of the top spots.
Substantial changes, and a variety of powertrains
It takes a certain audacity to swipe the entire front-end design language of one of the world's most revered luxury cars and paste it, verbatim, on the snout of a midsize family sedan. But Ford's managed to pull it off, and quite nicely. The Fusion's turned heads and generated considerable anticipation since its 2012 debut at the Detroit Auto Show.
There are substantial changes for 2013 Ford Fusion, the biggest being the European platform. The V6 engine is gone, replaced by a trio of 4-cylinder mills, a parallel hybrid and the soon-to-be-released Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid.
The base model S ($22,499) and SE ($24,499) are powered by the returning naturally aspirated 2.5L rated at 175 hp and 175 torque. The Ecoboost SE with a 1.6L produces 178 hp/184 lb-ft ($25,399) and is available with a 6-speed manual -- we predict this will be the volume seller. Moving up to the 2.0L Ecoboost with 240 hp/270 lb-ft and adding optional AWD (automatic 6-speed only) brings the price to $28,799, while the top trim Titanium models begin at $33,999. The 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid ($29,999), available only as an SE model, combines an Atkinson-cycle 2.0L 4-cylinder with an electric motor, mated to a CVT for a total of 185 hp.
Our drive route in the 2013 Ford Fusion took us well above California's Pacific coastline, through the spaghetti turns of the dusty canyon roads. We started our day in a 2013 Ford Fusion SE with 2.0L Ecoboost, mated to the 6-speed automatic transmission. The bold presence established by its upscale face continues, we're happy to say, over the rest of the car's body styling with crisp, sharp lines culminating in a pert rump similar to that of Audi's lovely A7.
Beautiful outside, functional inside
While the cabin of the 2013 Ford Fusion doesn't quite live up to the level of styling set by its exterior, it's attractive and offers plenty of space for cell phone, keys and sunglasses; and the touchscreen is easy to use for anyone familiar with Ford's user interface. Base models equipped with a simple 4.2" screen look a bit antiquated in comparison though.
Ford benchmarked Audi for its sense of "perceived quality" in the use of high-quality materials, soft-touch points and tight panel gaps. Our SE had comfortable leather seats, although my partner complained of the passenger seat's lack of height adjustment, leaving one with a sense of peering out over the sides of a tub.
There's all the requisite MyFord technology in the 2013 Ford Fusion: SYNC, AppLink and (available on most trims) adaptive cruise, active park assist, rear camera, cross-traffic alert, and lane-keeping assist.
There's plenty of interior space for four passengers with generous head and shoulder room -- although the Accord's rear seating is somewhat roomier.
1.6L Ecoboost, Manual Transmission: a nimble combination
The 2.0L engine in the 2013 Ford Fusion easily replaces the previous V6 in terms of power delivery. It's smooth and quick to accelerate, however, the 6-speed automatic occasionally showed reluctance to switch gears, particularly on the ascending canyon roads. The European-tuned suspension is admirably well sorted. MacPherson struts up front and a multilink rear set-up with sway bars front and back keep the 2013 Fusion composed and flat, and really dial up the fun factor on winding canyon roads. The electric steering has a decent heft to it, and the brakes were good: predictable without too much grab or pedal travel.
Swapping the 2.0L for the less powerful 1.6L 2013 Ford Fusion with MT, we were surprised to discover this powertrain made a delightful combination, livelier and with a lighter mass up front -- more balanced, too. Our stint behind the wheel involved trying to outrun the "shuttle pandemonium" on the Pacific Coast Highway in order to make our flights home -- and the 2013 Ford Fusion proved very nimble indeed through the erratic traffic. And the 1.6L also delivers the best fuel economy (other than the hybrid) with 8.0L/100 km city and 5.3 hwy.
In conclusion, Ford's 2013 Fusion delivers an engaging driving experience, coupled with dynamic good looks in a segment not known for either.
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